File: Ex-Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
BJP’s strong grip over various states and New Delhi stands challenged by regional parties and much-weakened Congress.
Opposition votes exist in India but require deft leadership. The voting pattern in Haryana and Maharashtra stands testimony to this reality. BJP’s strong grip over various states and New Delhi stands challenged by regional parties and much weakened Congress. Such political challenge stems from a strong culture of Opposition in Indian politics.
Despite massive electoral machinery in place, the Opposition has been able to get candidates elected. The best example in case is Haryana where elections have thrown a hung assembly. The presence of a resurgent Opposition should be a sigh of relief that India is not staring at brute majoritarian politics. It still has the power to rustle up regional and local concoctions to challenge national hegemony in the form of Bhartiya Janata Party. Haryana results may ape Karnataka development but still gives hope that Opposition can put a good fight under-seasoned hands.
Regional parties are integral to India
Off late, the argument was that regional parties would be subsumed by BJP. Congress would in itself turn into another regional party. The emergence of JJP in Haryana and NCP’s consolidation in Maharashtra shows us that regional parties will continue to exist in Indian electoral politics. Regional parties will continue to act as a bulwark against a very strong New Delhi. After 15 years, Haryana has thrown JJP under Dushyant Chautala and Sharad Pawar has been able to stem the decline of NCP by consolidating his vote in Maharashtra. The results show a significant drop in the share of BJP vote post-Lok Sabha reinforcing the message that regional elections will continue to have a say. The message is that regional parties are integral to Indian democracy and not an exception. Regional parties will continue to the vehicle of Indian regional diversity with competing for political interests.
National and regional voting pattern will always differ
Once again, the Assembly elections have shown that national and regional elections will have a different voting pattern. In both Maharashtra and Haryana, the vote share of BJP dropped significantly. BJP’s campaign on national security, Article 370 also failed. It failed in Bihar in 2015 and BJP had to do course correction. Its next election in Assam was fought on a local issue like Khilonjiya Sarkar (Government of Locals). BJP-Shiv Sena vote share in Maharashtra fell by 9 per cent and in Haryana by 22 per cent. It means that local and regional issues dominated or even sidelined national narrative on terrorism. This narrative is likely to continue in Indian politics and voting pattern will continue to be different.
Congress does well without Rahul Gandhi
Congress leadership under Sonia Gandhi has done better in the absence of Rahul Gandhi. Congress leaders, aligned with Rahul Gandhi, would have expected a party to do badly so that his comeback trail could be choreographed. The surprise result in Haryana and Maharashtra will strengthen the hands of the old guard and push back any chance of Rahul Gandhi taking over the Congress Party. There will be clamour within the Congress for Sonia Gandhi to serve as Congress President for a longer period. The results have also ended up exposing new leaders put up by Rahul Gandhi. Those created by Sonia Gandhi have worked well and those who climbed their way to top under Rahul Gandhi have turned out to be dud bombs.
Return to old party model by Congress
Congress under Sonia Gandhi was all about the management of regional satraps. BJP under its new leadership was able to defeat regional satraps after 2014. The response of the Congress was to centralise decision-making and ape BJP’s model of organisation. The net result was that regional satraps left Congress cursing Rahul Gandhi. Sonia after becoming Congress President again accommodated all the regional satraps. She even visited jailed Congress leaders in Tihar sending the message that she will stand by party leaders. The bump for the Congress also stems from the accommodation of regional leaders who were being systematically pushed out by Rahul Gandhi in the name of democratisation. Congress was able to organise its house in both states last minute. Insiders feel that picture would have been entirely different if the decision could have been taken earlier.
BJP will need to go regional again
BJP’s early success stemmed from local and regional leadership. When BJP was found floundering at the Centre for want of a strong voice, the regional leaders made up for the seats and political heft. BJP indeed tried its best to project Manohar Lal Khattar and Devendra Fadnavis as state leaders, but national stories failed to reap full dividends to BJP. Regional caste alignment also came to fore lending strength to regional parties.
Accountability becomes a big problem if elections results are not up to expectations. Maharashtra and Haryana qualify for the accountability problem for BJP. Lacklustre win in Maharashtra and hung assembly in Haryana will start this debate. A lot of blame will be pinned on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The fact of the matter is that elections were fought under BJP’s acting president JP Nadda and new Organising Secretary BL Santosh. They should be held accountable for the results in Haryana and Maharashtra. Question is, who will bell the cat.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)